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About Matagorda Island

Aerial view of Matagorda Island

*Matagorda Island, Spanish for “thick brush,” is a 38 mile (61 km) long barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast, about seven miles south of Port O’Connor, in the southernmost part of Calhoun County. The island is oriented generally northeast-southwest, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east and south, and Espiritu Santo Bay on the west and north. It is separated from San Jose Island to the south by Cedar Bayou, and is separated from the Matagorda Peninsula to the north by Cavallo Pass. It has no permanent residents and is accessible only by private boat. Some guides are available for hire to taxi you across and back. It has a land area of 157.25 km (60.7 sq mi).

Matagorda Island occupies 7325 acres (29.64 km) on the northeastern end of the island. The remainder of the island is devoted to wildlife refuges managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The land that is now Matagorda Island was acquired in 1940 by condemnation from the Hawes, Hill, and Little families (but not the Wynne-Murchison interests) for use as a temporary training facility for the WWII era.[1]

*Courtesy of Wikipedia

Matagorda Island Lighthouse Shines Again

A Matagorda Island beacon that guided ships along Texas’ mid-coast before the U.S. Civil War is again lighting the way for modern mariners thanks to the recent completion of a $1.23 million overhaul of the state’s oldest operational lighthouse.

It took a little more than a year to compete the repair project that included rebuilding and shoring up the base, repainting the entire lighthouse and replacing the light room at the top. In addition, sidewalks and a restroom were added at the site that is within the boundaries of Matagorda Island State Park.

The 92-foot-tall, charcoal-colored lighthouse is actually the second such structure to be built on the eastern tip of the barrier island overlooking Pass Cavallo that leads from the Gulf into Matagorda Bay. The original lighthouse, known as the Matagorda Light Station, was erected in 1852, funded by $1,500 appropriated by the U.S. Congress. It suffered extensive damage in the early 1860s when Confederate troops removed its Fresnel lens and tried to destroy the tower to prevent the Union Army benefiting from its guiding light.

In 1873, what remained of the old structure was dismantled and a new lighthouse erected two miles inland, using the same iron plates. At that time the red and white striped tower was painted black and a new Fresnel lens was installed. That lens, which was removed in 1977, is now on display at the Calhoun County Museum in Port Lavaca.

In 1956, electric power was brought to Matagorda Island and the light was automated. That ended the era of the lighthouse keeper, and Arthur Barr, the last of a long series of lighthouse keepers, and his family moved inland. Mr. Barr’s widow, Ruth, and their daughter were among the honored guests at the Dedication Ceremony held in June. Also attending and recognized were descendants of the first lighthouse keeper, James Cummings, who, on New Year’s Eve, 1852, lit the light on the first Matagorda lighthouse.

The Matagorda Island Lighthouse has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of The Interior.

Provided by The Dolphin Talk


Hunting

Biking

Bicycling is a healthy and enjoyable activity that is available in many of the Wildlife Management Areas of Texas.

Bicycling is a good way to move around the island. The north end of the island (throughout the runway/headquarters complex, extending down the road system to the lighthouse and including the beach) is available for unsupervised bicycling, wildlife viewing, and hiking during daylight hours only. Note that such activities are not allowed while public hunts are in progress. Guided wildlife and natural history tours will be scheduled periodically. A Limited Public Use (LPU) Permit or an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit is required for all persons, except for youth under age 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult.

Camping

  • Users may not camp or build a fire anywhere other than in a designated campsite.
  • Users may not cause, create, or contribute to excessive or disturbing sounds beyond the person’s immediate campsite between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Users may not establish a camp and leave it unattended for a period of longer than 24 hours.
  • Users must remove refuse from the area upon departing.
  • Cutting of firewood is prohibited.

Detailed Camping Information for the Matagorda Island

Fishing

For general information on fishing requirements and restrictions, see the General Rules of the Texas Fishing Guide. For information on fishing licenses, stamps, and tags, see Fishing Licenses.

Fishing opportunities include shallow water wade fishing on the bay side and surf fishing on the gulf side.

Predominant species include: Redfish, sea trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel and, tarpon.

Persons may bank fish at the docks located on the island. There is no fee for this activity, but note that all persons camping overnight will be required to posses a Limited Public Use Permit (LPU) or an Annual Public Hunting Lands Permit (APH). The permit is not required for youth under 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult.

Persons may also access the gulf front beaches for fishing via bicycle or hiking through the headquarters complex. This access is not allowed while public hunts are in progress.

Hiking

Hiking is an enjoyable activity that is available in on Matagorda IslandThe north end of the island (throughout the runway/headquarters complex, extending down the road system to the lighthouse and including the beach) is available for unsupervised wildlife viewing and hiking, during daylight hours only. Note that such activities are not allowed while public hunts are in progress. Wildlife viewing can be conducted either via bicycling or hiking. Guided wildlife and natural history tours will be scheduled periodically. A Limited Public Use Permit (LPU) or an Annual Public Hunting Lands Permit (APH) is required for all persons, except for youth under age 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult.

This Wildlife Management Area is one of many wildlife viewing sites along THE GREAT TEXAS COASTAL BIRDING TRAIL.

For information: Texas Parks and Wildlife – Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails

Wildlife Viewing

Viewing wildlife is an enjoyable activity that is available in many of the Wildlife Management Areas of Texas.

The location and geological makeup of Matagorda Island, including coves, bays and marshes, provides a natural nursery for fish and shellfish. These crustaceans supply the shorebirds and wading birds with a plentiful food supply. Whooping cranes are known to winter along the bay side of the WMA. Bird watchers can also find peregrine falcon, brown pelican, egrets, ibis, hawks, storks, herons and Southern bald eagles to name a few. White-tailed deer, feral hogs, wild turkeys, turtles, alligators, lizards and many other native and migratory wildlife are seen throughout the year.

The north end of the island (throughout the runway/headquarters complex, extending down the road system to the lighthouse and including the beach) is available for unsupervised wildlife viewing and hiking, during daylight hours only. Note that such activities are not allowed while public hunts are in progress. Wildlife viewing can be conducted either via bicycling or hiking. Guided wildlife and natural history tours will be scheduled periodically. A Limited Public Use Permit (LPU) or an Annual Public Hunting Lands Permit (APH) is required for all persons, except for youth under age 17, who must be accompanied by a permitted adult. Removing plants, animals, or artifacts is prohibited.

This Wildlife Management Area is one of many wildlife viewing sites along THE GREAT TEXAS COASTAL BIRDING TRAIL.

For information: Texas Parks and Wildlife – Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails